RATES OF detecting and prosecuting wildlife crime must be improved, a parliamentary committee has said.
Many crimes are not reported to police and go unrecorded, the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee was told.
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In instances where crimes are reported to officers, criminal proceedings only appear to be taken in a fifth of cases, the committee said.
Members are now calling on the Scottish Government to ensure wildlife crime data is published clearly and consistently with maps marking the location of incidents.
The most recent figures, released in October, showed that 319 offences against wildlife were recorded in 2012/13, up from 307 in the previous year.
In the courts, 75 people were prosecuted for wildlife crime over the same time period, with 55 convicted.
Committee convener Rob Gibson MSP said: “As awareness of the scope and complexity of wildlife crime increases, we strongly believe there is no room for complacency from any of us in tackling this important issue. We questioned whether wildlife crime is sufficiently prioritised by Police Scotland and the Crown Office.
“We heard that the answer is yes, therefore we expect to see an improvement in the detection and prosecution rates for wildlife crime in future years.”
The committee has written to Aileen MacLeod, the new Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, raising concerns.
One issue addressed was the poisoning of a number of birds of prey in the Highlands earlier this year.
Mr Gibson said: “The Committee was appalled by the recent poisoning of 22 raptors near Conon Bridge. We strongly welcome the Scottish Government’s intention to bring forward a pesticides disposal scheme focusing on the removal of illegal substances most commonly used in wildlife crime.
“Recent events have demonstrated only a small amount of these poisons can have catastrophic consequences for our wildlife.”
The letter also raises concerns over comments by former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse who said that certain species are almost entirely absent in areas of Scotland where it is expected they would be present.
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